Are you selling yourself short when it comes to your rates?
Many new developers – or, let’s be honest, long-time developers – have trouble setting rates for themselves that can actually meet their needs. And if you’re reading this, you’re most likely one of them.
Most developers (and designers, and freelancers in general) tend to bill conservatively at first. Often they feel like they lack experience or skills to charge more, or they’re just not sure what the “going rate” is for their job description.
But playing it safe can keep you from having the career of your dreams.
That’s why it’s important to start charging more for your services, and here are 3 of the biggest reasons why…
Reason 1: You Have In-Demand Skills
One of the biggest reasons freelancers in general tend to undersell is self-doubt. They’re just not sure they have a skill that someone is willing to pay for. But that’s simply not true of developers.
The growth rate of the industry is astronomical. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for developers is projected to increase 20% within the next 10 years, nearly doubling the growth of all other occupations.
This is also why you should be charging more for your services. Over time, demand for web and mobile developers will continue to rise, and the more experience you gain, the more your skills will be worth to the public. But even at the get-go, your skills are still valuable.
So how should this affect your pricing strategy?
Conventional wisdom would tell you to start low and then raise your rates, but the demand of your job means that you can actually start higher and work with more lucrative clients from the start.
Freelancer Jake Jorgovan writes, “When I started pricing myself hourly I started with an hourly rate of $30hr. Over time, I kept raising my rate from $30 to $50, $60 and higher. Yet somewhere around that $60 per hour range I noticed a major shift in my mindset. At $60 per hour, I was beginning to start working with higher quality clients who had decent budgets.”
After a while, Jorgovan was able to switch to more lucrative project-based pricing, which freed him from the “hourly rate debate” all together.
But the lesson here is that people will hire you because they absolutely can’t do what you do. No matter how you set your prices, remember that you have something valuable to offer, even if you’re brand new to the gig.
If you want high paying clients, then set your prices accordingly.
Reason 2: Market Value is Negotiable
If you’re not sure what a “high paying client” will actually pay, consider the fact that people will pay almost anything for something they consider valuable.
Think about it: What is the value of a cup of coffee?
If you go to a gas station, it’s probably 99 cents. But if you pour that same coffee into a Starbucks cup, you can charge $3. That’s the market value of a brand.
Your market value is the same. You’re not underselling because you’re a new developer or because you don’t have skills or qualifications, you’re underselling because you’re not marketing yourself as someone with in-demand skills.
Part of marketing yourself well is setting prices that reflect the value your skills bring to your clients. Some of that will be determined by general market value, but that doesn’t mean you always have to charge what everyone else is charging; market value is just a starting point.
Your best bet for setting rates is to start by assessing the average value a developer has in the marketplace today. Consider things like:
- Average salary for someone with your job description
- Average skillset for someone in your position
- Average demand for someone in your position (hiring rates, etc.)
Try to gain as clear a picture as possible about what the market looks like, and then compare where you stand.
Do you have more skills than necessary? Less skills overall, but more experience in certain skills? Do you specialize? Do you have a niche client focus? Are you faster than most?
Make a list of the things that you do well and that set you apart from the average developer. Those unique qualities become your brand, and you can (and should) set your rates according to what your brand can offer clients.
You don’t have to have all the skills or experience in the world; you just have to have something special to offer.
Reasons 3: Your Cost of Living
Another important and often overlooked factor when it comes to price setting is the cost of doing business and the cost of living. Many developers start by charging what the market says they’re worth, but fail to increase their rates enough to make a livable income.
When you’re thinking about setting your prices, ask yourself: How much money do I need to make to live the life I want?
If you want a luxurious, jet-set lifestyle but only charge $25 an hour for your services, you might wind up disappointed. If you want to simply pay your bills and live comfortably, but you live in a city or state with a higher cost of living, you might need to charge more simply to stay afloat.
Even if the “market rate” says you should charge $50 an hour, that doesn’t mean you can actually live off of $50 an hour. You should also keep in mind that charging by the hour limits you to a certain amount of hours per year that you can actually work.
You may consider either raising your hourly rate or, like Jorgovan, abandoning it in favor of project-based rates.
As we said before, the market value is the starting point – a minimum price. Once you have your basic rate, increase the price based on the unique value your skills bring to your clients (your brand), as well as any additional costs of doing business (new equipment, training, conferences, subscriptions, etc.) and the cost of living (rent, food, travel, etc.).
Your pricing should be able to meet your needs. And if you’re worried about whether or not your clients will pay your new rates, consider going after different clients. Anyone who understands your true value will be willing to pay whatever you charge.
At the end of the day, there’s no set formula for how to set your pricing. But this can actually work in your favor. Instead of setting rates based on what every other developer does, you can set rates based on the value your skills actually provide to your clients.
Remember that even at the most basic level, being a developer means that you’re in-demand, so don’t be shy about charging more for your services. Keep in mind that market value is just a starting point, and if you want to go after higher paying clients, then brand yourself for higher paying clients.
And don’t forget to calculate costs based on how much you want to work and how much it will cost you to do business (and live). After all, you didn’t become a web developer to starve, so don’t set prices that will leave you out in the cold.